The Family History Library

Every genealogist hopes to someday get to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. My mother and I went in 1992, and learned not only by doing, but by observation, that this is not a trip to take on a whim.

The library has over 2.4 million rolls of microfilmed genealogical records; 742,000 microfiche; 310,000 books, serials, and other formats; 4,500 periodicals; 700 electronic resources. That means you simply must have a list of specific goals, written down, before you enter. If you just wander in hoping to find your great-great-grandmother among that much information, you will be frustrated. In fact, Mother and I saw several folks leave the library in tears, because they were simply overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data.

The FamilySearch site has these suggestions:

1. Learn all you can about your family from home and family sources and bring with you any information that links you to ancestors who lived before 1920. Information on people living in the 20th century is difficult to obtain due to privacy restrictions. Your relatives can save you time and get you started. Collect your data, and make a note of what you need to know.

2. Search work done by others using the sources and plan to use the library to find original records to verify the information you have found.

3. Look for others who may be currently working on your ancestors. Online, you can do this at:

* RootsWeb surname list

* GenForum

* Mailing lists (e-mail)

You can also ask at your local historical and genealogical organizations, your local library and local college or university.

4. Always visit a local Family History Center first, or go to to search the library catalog. Each FHC is a branch of the main library in Salt Lake City, with a card catalog and access to many helpful research guides. Again, make note of specific goals to research when you get to Salt Lake City. You can find a list of local Family History Centers here,

5. Using your written list of goals, use the catalog to find the book, CD-ROM, microfilm, and microfiche numbers you need to find records and information. Write down the call numbers.

6. Use the online Family History Library Catalog to determine if the films you need are immediately available in the library. Not all microfilms are stored at the library. Films listed in the catalog as “Vault” films may take up to three days to retrieve. Before your visit, you can request the microfilms you need by e-mail, telephone, or fax. To call in an order by telephone, call (801) 240-7378 for films with records from the United States and Canada, (801) 240-7379 for films with records from the British Isles, and (801) 240-2334 for films from any other country. To fax in your order call (801) 240-1924.

7. Will you be using records from another country? Use this link to find language word lists of genealogical terms.

8. Many records are handwritten, are in chronological rather than alphabetical order, and are not indexed. Allow plenty of time at the library when searching such records.

9. Check the library’s holiday schedule to plan the dates of your trip.

Now, you can plan your trip to Salt Lake City, and be confident of returning with information, not frustration!

Post Script: DearMYRTLE and I discuss thisĀ  topic in her May 6 Podcast .

About Libbi

Writer for 30 years. Genealogy a hobby for about 40 years. Yes, I'm in my 50's, I learned about genealogy at my mother's knee!
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